‘Splendor’ a good read for tennis fans

  Marshall Jon Fisher delves into a fascinating era in the history of tennis in “A Terrible Splendor.” Tennis fans may love the book. Others will be bored.
  The book chronicles  the 1937 Davis Cup showdown between Germany’s Baron Gottfried von Cramm and the United States’ Don Budge on the storied courts of Wimbledon.
  The two players were very different. Von Cramm was a handsome, sophisticated aristocrat. The redheaded Budge came from a working class background who learned his tennis on the public courts of Oakland, Calif. He was a dynamic competitor on the court, but was awkward off of it. But they were both great sportsmen with class, and their five-set tennis marathon is considered one of the greatest matches in history.
  The Davis Cup was followed closely and had a greater impact on the sporting public than it does today. The victorious team was considered champion of the world. Budge was on his way to becoming the sport’s greatest player, while Von Cramm was playing for his very life. The German refused to join the Nazi Party and did little to disguise his contempt for his country’s leaders. The Nazis blackmailed Von Cramm with a secret from his personal life. He refused to bend to their will and later was sent to the Russian front as an infantryman after World War II broke out.
  The book is full of the passions and politics of the day. The impact of other great players, such as “Big Bill” Tilden, who dominated the sport in the 1920s, is part of the narrative.
  The author labels his chapters after the five sets played by the two men in their epic match, with the final chapter called “Aftermatch.” The narrative has numerous flashbacks and also flashes forward in time. The book bogs down in its myriad details. Despite these flaws, the book’s virtues outweigh its shortcomings.

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